Trust marks International Nurses Day
They look after us all year round, but today people around the world are marking International Nurses Day – made all the more poignant by the impact of Covid-19. Here we speak to some of our West Suffolk nurses about why they love their jobs, what the pandemic meant for them, and what their future might hold as restrictions lift.
Amanda Keighley – senior matron, community and integrated services
Amanda was attracted to nursing after she had to have stitches in A&E after a minor accident as child, and has now worked at West Suffolk Hospital and in the local community since 1988.
As a senior matron within the community, she loves being able to support and develop other staff to meet the challenges within their roles.
“I feel privileged that I get to support and empower other people when they need it most,” said Amanda. That was particularly the case throughout the Covid-19 pandemic: “Both professionally and personally it has been a challenging time, but I’m lucky enough to have found strength in the support and kindness of the public recognising the efforts of the NHS, and all key workers.”
Amanda, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, is looking forward to meeting up more with her friends and family when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted as well as being able to meet up more regularly with the nursing teams she supports face to face, rather than over the phone or virtually.
More normal times will also give her more chances to support other nurses: “I want be able to mentor and inspire others into the profession, particularly nurses who wish to specialise in community nursing.”
As well as being a matron, Amanda is a staff governor at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and is keen to continue supporting staff as their representative and expressing their needs at board level to help develop the organisation and future systems going forward.
Helen Boulton – trauma practitioner
Helen grew up in Suffolk and was encouraged to follow a life in nursing after a career’s day at Debenham High School. After finishing sixth form, Helen went to Nottingham University as part of Project 2000 – a higher education scheme for nursing qualifications.
Like many nurses, Helen’s career has taken in many different hospital departments including emergency, and ear nose and throat. As a trauma practitioner, Helen believes a key attribute to being a nurse is being “resilient and creative with the ability to work under pressure” as well as stressing the importance of having a good sense of humour!
Helen adds: “I enjoy being a nurse as it gives me the opportunity to progress as well as being able to help people. I love being able to learn something new every day.”
Outside of work Helen, who lives in Debenham, is a keen runner as well as enjoying yoga and racing and is excited to get back to the beach when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Helen is currently pursuing an Advanced Clinical Practitioner (ACP) which will give her the opportunity to work at a higher clinical level.
Archie Libero, endoscopy staff nurse
For Archie, being a nurse was a family thing - her mum is a registered nurse – but that doesn’t mean it was an easy path.
Moving between the UK and the Philippines meant that although she completed her university nursing degree she wasn’t able to get the post-registration experience she needed to finalise her qualifications.
“Despite this,” she says, “I continued to work in healthcare. I worked in a dementia care home as a carer, then a team leader for three years until I got a job in West Suffolk Hospital endoscopy unit as a senior endoscopy assistant.
“The education team in the Trust and my manager supported me to become a UK registered nurse. Eventually, I was able to qualify for a two-year nursing degree apprenticeship programme.
“It was a very long process but the experience, skills and knowledge I have gained through the years has been invaluable to me in providing the best quality and safest care for my patients.
“My inspiration has always been my mum. I’ve always admired her knowledge about human health and her compassion for people.
“The nursing profession is extremely rewarding, knowing that we are making a difference to people’s lives. I like how every day is different. I love how I can help a patient get through their day, but it can also be very tough mentally, physically and emotionally.
“In early 2020 I got moved to help on the winter escalation ward that was only meant to open until March, but we had to extend due to the pandemic. We were one of the few wards left looking after the rest of the patients coming in because most of the wards became Covid wards.
“There was also a lot of anxiety because staff were also getting ill. Working through my dissertation and assignments while working full time, it was a stressful time but also definitely a learning experience.”
Molly Ashworth – student nurse
At just 20 years old, Molly Ashworth from Eye is at the start of her nursing career.
“I wanted to become a paediatric nurse as I enjoy being able to support children and their families during what may be a distressing time and make a difference to their lives,” said Molly.
She is studying at university, and gaining experience at West Suffolk Hospital.
“The most challenging part of my job currently is balancing my university work along with working full time hours at the Trust for my placement, but it is all worth it. I love meeting new people and having conversations with the children I am looking after and their families.
“I also enjoy working alongside the amazing staff who are so compassionate and supportive.”
The Covid-19 pandemic made a big impact on Molly’s studies, but it hasn’t dented her enthusiasm for nursing.
“I wasn't able to work at the hospital during the first wave of the pandemic because my university pulled first year students out of practice, so I worked at a local nursing home to support them instead. However, I was back working through the second wave from December to February, which was hard but I am pleased I was able to help on the frontline throughout.
“It made me appreciate the NHS even more.”
Molly hopes to return to West Suffolk for her first role after graduating but has some other priorities when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted: “I am most looking forward to being able to go out more and see my friends and family, but also to get on holiday for some sunshine!”
Sarah-Jayne Moore – Parkinson’s Disease nurse
“I decided to move into nursing after working within a care home environment for those with memory loss and complex needs,” said Sarah-Jayne, who works as a Parkinson’s disease nurse and lives at Red Lodge.
“I wanted to be a point of contact for those that needed more help. Patient care has always been paramount to me and providing the best service possible is key. I enjoy being able to build an ongoing relationship with my patients. Due to the nature of Parkinson’s disease, we are likely to be together for a number of years and it is so important for parents to know that they are not alone.
“The hardest part of the job is when we have reached the limits medically with a patient and the challenge is then watching the patient and family living with the psychological and physical consequences. That is when my job turns into a therapeutic or palliative role.”
Like many nurses, Sarah-Jayne is always learning and developing her career.
“I like working with different groups of people, I’m enjoying engaging with other departments in the hospital to improve patient care,” she said.
“Over the last two years I have also been completing my Masters in Advanced Practice which has allowed me to see how other departments and specialities work, which helps in my own area.”
The pandemic meant even more learning, as care rapidly had to be delivered in different ways.
“I’ve been very lucky to stay within my role during the pandemic, while others in the team were redeployed. In many cases we moved to telephone reviews on patients as Parkinson’s, which has been difficult to complete as it is such a wide-ranging condition.
“I am really excited to be able to see my patients face to face again.”
Dan Spooner – Deputy chief nurse
As deputy chief nurse at West Suffolk Hospital, Dan Spooner, who lives near Saffron Walden, says he was drawn into the career through a combination of enjoying sciences at school and wanting to do something that involved people and made a difference.
“My parents both worked in hospital setting in various roles and it always sounded like a fascinating world. Nursing was a logical step for me,” he said.
“My clinical career has predominantly been in emergency care and it ticked every box for me: fast-paced, reactive, and really quite visceral. Not for the feint hearted, but essential for the kind hearted.”
The variety of the job is one of the most important parts for him – the diversity of both patients and colleagues.
“The people that I have met and had the privilege to work with are the best thing about my job. I am inspired daily by those that make up this wonderful profession.
“Identifying as a nurse is part and parcel of my core values. The job gives me a sense that I am positively giving something back to society. While that’s a little deep. I also love the difference we as nurses make to our patient’s experience at some of the hardest moments in their life.
As deputy chief nurse at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, he has a wide ranging role overseeing and guiding staff and patient care.
“I love the diversity of careers that nursing can provide, there are so many opportunities in nursing that can lead to the most rewarding of career paths.”
Working through the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly added to that diversity.
“It has been overwhelming, frustrating, emotional, inspiring, humbling. There are never enough hours in the day and it can be difficult keeping the work / life balance in check.
“You really do have to look after yourself to look after others.”
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